What To Expect When You Start a SEO Program

Most business owners don’t know what to expect when you start an SEO program.  Over the years, I’ve read a tremendous amount of information about SEO and followed a number of experts in the space.  And SEO is one of those topics where you can easily get lost.  Between black hat techniques, link farms, and the voodoo magic, there’s a lot to know and think about in evaluating a site’s SEO and in planning out a strategy for the future.

what to expect when you start an SEO program
SEO should be part of your marketing plan.

SEO is one of those necessary evils.  I say this because marketing is about two things—generating awareness and getting people to take action.  And if no one knows you’re out there, it’s hard to get them to take action.  Getting found by the search engines is important –and getting found by people who have a problem you can solve, is just as important.  That’s where SEO fits into your marketing plan.

Knowing what to expect when you start an SEO program is critical to its success.  It’s important to point out that SEO is not a short-term play.  Quite frankly, nothing in marketing is a quick win, and if you’re only in it for the short-term, my recommendation is to save your time, effort, and money.

While some search engine optimization activities can deliver some quick wins, the more strategic and detailed plans will continue to provide far more value than initial improvements in rankings because they are designed around your marketing strategy.  And that’s what you should be after.

In order to deliver SEO programs that provide value, it’s important to manage and communicate details around realistic timelines and set the right expectations.  While there are a small number of SEO firms that will guarantee some level of immediate results to win the business, the ideal situation is for a plan to produce sustainable improvements over time.

That’s where delivering a realistic timeline for SEO strategy is important.  While there is no real set timetable, communicating some details around the stages of a comprehensive strategy will prepare businesses for the realities of SEO.  The following is a sample timeline to look to as a guide for achieving some realistic success with SEO over a six-month timeline.

Evaluation and Planning

While an SEO company will do some initial analysis on a company’s web site and the industry itself in an effort to win the client’s business, they’ll do just enough to understand whether or not they can actually help the company.  Because of the amount of work involved and the complexity, comprehensive strategy and website planning only takes place after you’ve signed on to become a client.

The research includes data on how your site currently ranks with respect to certain search phrases and whether or not it’s been handed any penalties by Google.  During this phase, the SEO company will ask you questions about the products and services you sell, who buys them, and what are your highest sellers.  This detail helps with keyword research and discovery and then they’ll audit your web site to see what kind of optimization work has been done (also known as on-page SEO).  This work also entails the SEO company developing an understanding of buying phrases vs. research phrases and the intent around those searches.

After looking at your site itself, then they’ll do an off-site website audit (frequently referred to as off-page SEO) to see how you compare to others in your industry.  This involves identifying some direct competitors for comparison as well as looking at indicators like page rank and authority and the volume and quality of backlinks.

After this advanced analysis, the SEO company will devise an order of tasks that they believe will provide the best path to improved rankings.  This research phase could take anywhere from 2 to 4 weeks.

On-Page SEO

After your SEO provider has identified the key search phrases to focus on, they’ll probably start by optimizing the current web site.  In addition to using Google’s Keyword planning tool, your provided will likely also use Google Web Master Tools to get a solid understanding as to what phrases are bringing traffic to the site.  This phase could mean a web site overhaul in terms of copy, or it could simply mean cleaning up some of the tags and necessary information on the key pages of your site.

This activity might be 1 to 2 months of work as it depends on the state of the site.  If the site needs to be re-built, it could take slightly longer.

Writing Content

Once you’ve got your keyword research complete and your website is updated with the initial changes, it’s time to start writing some content around your keywords.  The idea here is to strategize on how you can create useful, educational and entertaining content that will attract traffic and improve your visibility as it relates to search.

If you already have a blog on your site, some time may be spent further optimizing the blog posts that are already there and then strategizing around linking your existing content to the new content you plan to write.

 In addition to building content, you’ll also want some focus on building your company’s presence on social media sites as well as other opportunities to amplify your content.  It does you no good to spend time, effort and money creating content if you’re not going to work at getting that content out so that others can see and share it.

Track Progress and Continue to Build Authority

With continued focus on building and assessing the value of each piece of content, you should be able to see the fruits of your labor.  Ongoing monitoring of your rankings and watching your traffic is how you will know your efforts are paying off.  The key is to continue adding high-quality content and monitoring your efforts.

The great thing about content is that it continues to provide value long after its initial post.  It gives you something to link future content to, and you’ll notice that each blog will deliver a certain amount of traffic each month, long after it’s been published.  With the appropriate tools, you can monitor desirable topics and who else is linking to your content so you can continue to write new posts to build more authoritative linking opportunities.

Maintenance and Monitoring

As your traffic grows, you should see leads start to develop naturally.  The key to success is to continue to focus on the keywords and phrases that drive traffic and then those that get actually get people to take action.  Action being the buying phrases which is what we ultimately want.  Continue to hone your content strategy around those keywords and phrases that deliver the rights kinds of traffic and action.

The more effort you put into maintaining and reevaluating your work with your SEO provider, the better success you’ll deliver.

And it doesn’t end here.  It’s important to reiterate that SEO and content are not short-term plays.  It takes a good 6 months and sometimes longer, depending on how competitive the environment is, to produce results.    Both SEO and content creation are continuous, long-term actions that need to remain top of mind for business owners.  Companies that invest in SEO with a content strategy around it, are putting their companies in a position to improve and grow their business.  In order to continue to deliver success though, you have to plan and strategize your path to produce the quality content that your prospects are looking for.

And remember that SEO is never done.  There will always be further research and deeper information on how people search and there will always be improvements made to the search algorithms.  With that in mind, continuous improvement is really the objective.


If you’d like some solid feedback on your current status and some recommendations for a plan going forward, fill out our online marketing audit and we’ll review the results with you on a one to one call.  And we won’t try to sell you anything during that call.  Request your marketing audit here.

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